Gym anxiety is something everyone experiences at least once in their life, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the fitness world. In fact, Pure Gym found that 50% of non-gym goers said they found the idea of going to the gym scary (I).
There is so much pressure to appear confident in the gym, when in reality this just isn’t the case. Whilst exercise has been found to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, research has also found that people with high levels of social anxiety are more likely to avoid sports that are observed by others, especially women (II). Thus, we enter a perpetual cycle of wanting to go to the gym but feeling unable.
Gym anxiety can manifest for a number of reasons. Continuing with their intimidation report, Pure Gym found the five things that gave people the most gym anxiety;
Whatever the reasons for your gym anxiety, the important thing to remember is that everyone started their fitness journey from scratch and probably felt these things too. Here at Bamae we’ve put together a few things that can help you build up your confidence in the gym.
Feelings of anxiety often link to the fear of the unknown, therefore if we can prepare for the gym, it can reduce our anxieties. Establishing a workout routine is something that won’t happen in one night, however having a rough plan on what you intend to do in the gym can stop you feeling so aimless and give you structure. The key is to not push yourself too hard, and try a few exercises and machines at a time rather than overwhelm yourself with everything at once.
Join a women’s only gym.
Joining a woman’s only gym will allow you to get to grips with the gym without the discomfort of being under the male gaze. The majority of women who’ve visited a gym have probably had an uncomfortable experience involving a man at least once. It can be difficult to get comfortable in the gym with untoward stares and comments. The weight room especially is a place where many women feel like it wasn’t made for them, and knowing you’re under a watchful eye can make it even more intimidating.
Book an introductory session with a PT
Often times an introductory session with a PT is free when you first join a gym. This is a great way to familiarise yourself with the machines, gym, and understanding how to create a workout plan with the help of a professional. Taking this step can alleviate some of the anxiety felt by turning the unknown into something more familiar.
If booking a session with a PT sounds too intimidating, that’s not the only way to get familiar with the gym! Most commercial gyms have virtual tours online so you can familiarise yourself with the layout without being there. YouTube is also a great place to find tutorials on how to use any machines if you’re unsure.
Go with a friend
25% of people said they’d rather be in a room with a spider that go to the gym alone in Pure Gym’s intimidation report. It can be difficult to go to the gym alone, especially if people in the gym are with friends. It’s easy to feel lonely and the odd one out. Dr Margee Kerr, a researcher of fear at the University of Pittsburgh, sheds some light as to why we feel more fearful going to the gym alone.
“Going to the gym is a social experience, meaning it carries all the potential gains that come with socialising, but also all the fears and anxieties too’ (II).
Join gym classes
Going to the gym can be difficult if you don’t have a workout routine down, however you shouldn’t let that stop you from working out. Most gyms offer free classes with a membership, so why not join one? From circuits to spin class, there’ll be something to kickstart your fitness goals and give you more confidence in the gym. If you feel a bit nervous about joining a class alone, these are great with friends too!
Putting one or two of these tips in action may be the push you need to start your fitness journey in the gym. However, if going to the gym is truly something that you don't enjoy, that’s also ok; the gym isn’t for everyone. There are various other ways to get a great workout that doesn't leave you with crippling anxiety. Take up your favourite sport, go to dance/Zumba classes, or fit a home workout into your routine. Don’t feel cornered into subscribing to one type of fitness. Cater your exercise routine to something you enjoy; this way you’ll be more likely to engage and come back to it.